A familiar face is returning to lead Nelson’s biggest sports organization.
Chuck Bennett has been named president of the Nelson Soccer Association (NSA). Bennett previously served in the role from 2008 to 2015 before leaving to join the B.C. Soccer board of directors.
His replacement, Kerry Dyck, was diagnosed with lung and brain cancer this year and could not stand for a second term. Bennett praised Dyck for the work he accomplished over nearly a decade with the organization, which changed its name from Nelson Youth Soccer last month.
“No one’s done more work in Nelson Youth Soccer than Kerry Dyck,” said Bennett. “No one’s done more heavy lifting than Kerry. No one’s been more supportive of where this is going than Kerry.
“Kerry, I don’t know how many teams he’s coached. He’s coached all three of his kids. I’ve never seen an engine like Kerry’s. To be quite honest, I think we’re all in shock.”
Soccer remains Nelson’s most popular sport. The organization was home to approximately 1,200 players in 2016 and made a profit of $53,307, according to numbers made public at October’s annual general meeting.
But the AGM also revealed a disparity in players between rep and house programs, which also follows a nation-wide trend in dropping registration numbers. Bennett called that a red flag he intends to make a priority.
“I am concerned. I set the AGM up to ring that alarm bell because I think it needs to be rung,” he said. “We’re very successful, financially we’re in good shape, but if we don’t deal with it now when we have the means to have a programming look at this, [what happens] when we don’t have the means because our revenues have declined? That’s the worst time to deal with problems.”
Nelson soccer teams have had a run of provincial success at the rep and high school levels over the last two years.
Seven NSA teams competed in provincials in July, bringing home one silver and two bronze medals. In 2016, the under-16 girls squad won Nelson’s first provincial gold in six years.
Bennett warned that success will end if programming changes aren’t made to maintain house numbers, and suggested NSA might consider a culture shift.
“I think the challenge with us our programming is pretty stale at times. It’s how we’ve always done it and we need to look at, what are the recreational opportunities? What does a recreational player look like? What is a successful recreational player? What is a successful competitive player?”
Bennett added he’ll be incorporating lessons learned during his time with B.C. Soccer into NSA’s governance.
That includes possible revisions to the organization’s structure and judicial decision making, as well as the promotion of NSA’s relationship with the Vancouver Whitecaps, which he described as a model for the rest of the province.
Chuck Bennett was previously the publisher of the Nelson Star.